Seattle, WA – February 27-March 1, 2014
Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP)
RHINO’s Bookfair table number is: BB14
PANEL Friday, Feb. 28, 1:45 to 2:45 pm – RHINO – 37 Years of Charging Forward
Room 2B, Washington State Convention Center, Level 2.
Eclectic, edgy, and fiercely independent, RHINO boasts a vibrant community of readers, writers, and donors, plus a table of volunteer editors who’ve developed a unique collaborative process that works. From its roots as a writers’ group forum, RHINO has grown into a nationally-known print journal with a strong online presence. Our lively panel of editors will share what we’ve learned and how we do it, with frank discussion of the sometimes risky steps we’ve taken to showcase the work we love.
Virginia Bell is a senior editor with RHINO Poetry and an adjunct professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. She is the author of From the Belly, and her poems have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Calyx, Pebble Lake Review, Wicked Alice, and in anthologies.
Janice Bottiglieri is a managing editor of RHINO. She recently published a chapbook, Where Gravity Pools the Sugar.
Ralph Hamilton (Moderator) is editor of RHINO. His poems have appeared in Court Green,CutBank, and Blackbird. His first book, Subtle Knot, will be published in 2015. He serves on the Ragdale Foundation’s board and is Fifth Wednesday’s 2013 poetry prize judge.
Jacob Saenz’s poetry has been published in Poetry, Great River Review, and OCHO. He has been recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. He currently serves as an associate editor for RHINO and works at a library in Chicago.
Angela Narciso Torres’s book, Blood Orange, won the Willow Books Lit Award in poetry. Recent work appears in Cimarron, Colorado, and Cream City Reviews. A senior editor for RHINO, she has received fellowships from Ragdale and the Illinois Arts Council.
In addition, you’ll find editors signing their books at our table BB14 and reading at these off-site events:
Thursday, February 27
1:30-2:30 pm. Angela Narciso Torres – book signing (Blood
Orange) – AWP Bookfair, RHINO table BB14.
5:00-9:00 pm. Angela Narciso Torres – reading with Willow Books Authors, Seattle Public Library.
Friday, February 28, 2014
10-12 Andrea Witzke Slot – book signing(To Find a New Beauty) – Gold Wake Press table K28
4:30 to 5:45 pm Calyx: Tribute to Margarita Donnelly
Angela Narciso Torres, Panelist
Room 302, Level 3, Western New England MFA Annex, at the Seattle Convention Center
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Everyone and Their Mother: SRP at the Nitelite Lounge Nitelite Lounge, 1920 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA 98101Cost: No cover. Food/Drinks are Cash Only.
Bryan Borland & Seth Pennington host multiple Sibling Rivalry Press authors and launch SRP’s Spring 2014 lineup in this cash only dive bar. Featuring RHINO editors and poets Virginia Bell, Ralph Hamilton, and other writers from Sibling Rivalry Press
7-9 pm Andrea Witzke Slot at Gold Wake Press reading at Cafe Fonte
Saturday, March 1
1:30-2:30 Jan Bottiglieri – book signing (Where Gravity Pools the Sugar) – table BB14
Associate Editor Jacob Saenz interviewed Poet and Writer Erika Sánchez, whose poem, “Recession Poem #3”, was published in RHINO 2012.
JS: First off, thank you for taking the time off your busy schedule to interview with us here at RHINO. We’re happy you agreed to do so and even more pleased to have your poem, “Recession Poem #3”, in RHINO 2012.
I love the use of white space in your poem, which seems to me to represent the “silence // so tentacled so deep” that seeps in throughout the entire poem. I also love that poem ends with the sound of wind chimes that seem to shatter the silence.
How many Recession poems have you written? Do they use a similar form as that of #3? Do you feel compelled to write more of them in this economic climate?
ES: It’s my pleasure! I actually had three recession poems at one point, but I am a ruthless reviser, so now I only have one. Also, this particular one has been transformed into something different. Many of the images remain, but the poem became much more emotionally violent and kind of creepy. (I can’t ever leave my poems alone. I have probably ruined a few by being so compulsive.) I originally wrote the series because I had this god awful corporate job after grad school for about two years, and I don’t think I’ve ever hated anything so much in my life. The poems reflected the deep desperation I felt during that time. While working in the Loop, I also observed jarring economic inequalities and overwhelming consumerism. I was both repulsed and fascinated… But mostly repulsed. Haha. I think I’m finished with those kinds of poems for now. Things are looking up for me.
JS: In addition to being a talented poet, you also write articles for The Huffington Post and NBC Latino. How do you approach writing articles as opposed to poetry? Do you have a writing regimen for either form? Do you find that your poetry and the articles you write have similar themes and/or topics?
ES: Usually, a poem begins as an image that gets stuck in my brain. I see or hear something grotesque or beautiful or both that startles me and then I become obsessed with it until it becomes a poem. Sometimes it takes me years to complete a poem. Sometimes they require me to leave them alone for months and months before I can revise them again. I know it sounds new agey and kind of mystical, but the poems tell me what they want. I also do a lot of writing exercises and free writing to make myself come up with fresh new language. Poetry feels like my brain giving birth to something painful and grotesque.
My prose, however, is mostly a reaction to anger. Honestly, most of my articles are about things I’m pissed off about. I can make myself sit down and write about domestic violence or racism, for example, but I can’t do the same with poetry. That always ends badly. I can also use humor in my prose, which I find nearly impossible to do when writing poems. Poetry is also so painstaking and image-driven for me. I find both genres liberating in completely different ways.
JS: Full disclosure: you and I both attended Morton East High School in Cicero, IL. I remember being an editor for Parchment, the school’s literary magazine, and how we had to turn down one of your poems because it had the word “cunts” in it. I remember liking the poem and feeling sad that we could not publish it but I also understood why we had to do so. I suppose it would’ve made some readers uncomfortable.
Do you enjoy that, making the reader uncomfortable or otherwise uneasy with your writing? What do you hope the reader to gain by such discomfort? In asking this question, I’m thinking of your article on The Huffington Post, “Why I Choose to be Politically Incorrect”.
ES: I love this story because it reveals how much of an asshole I was at that age. The hubris! Haha. I remember getting the response from the editor and I was all “how dare they censor me!” I remember I also got reprimanded after I read a scandalous poem at a school assembly. I suppose I haven’t completely changed because I still revel in making people uneasy sometimes. Part of it is that I think uncomfortable things need to be dissected and discussed so we can all heal both as individuals and as a society. To be perfectly honest, I enjoy joking about race, and I do it because it helps me cope and because it can make people examine their own privilege. (Or maybe they just end up thinking I’m a politically incorrect jerk. Who knows?)
I also don’t hesitate to let myself go to the weird and unsettling places of my psyche. I can’t tell you how many times I have creeped myself out with a poem. Recently, I wrote a poem about donkeys and when I was finished, I thought to myself– “did I really just write a poem about a donkey show?” I feel like readers appreciate that sort of vulnerability and honesty, though. I often get responses from other women, especially Latinas, thanking me for writing about this or that. I really appreciate being able to connect to people in that capacity. My articles have also pissed a lot of people off, particularly men, and I’ve received plenty of hate mail, but it doesn’t faze me anymore. I’m going to write about what I think is important regardless of the repercussions. I’ve always been brutally honest and it has both bitten me in the ass and served me well.
JS: As a Latina poet, how do you feel about nature of Latino/a poetry as a whole? Do you feel Latino/a poetry is well-represented in mainstream journals? If not, what could be done to address this?
ES: I don’t know what to say about the nature of it as a whole, because it’s comprised of so many voices and styles. I think it might take me a few months to come up with a good answer. I’m disappointed when I don’t see Latino/a poetry in mainstream journals, because there are so many talented Latino poets that I refuse to believe it’s because they don’t receive enough submissions. I think this is improving though. Latino/as have been winning big prizes and are being published by larger presses. The way that I personally address this problem is by submitting to these journals until they take my work. I’m very stubborn. I think it would also help if journals made an effort to make their editorial team more diverse.
JS: Who and what have you been reading lately that has inspired you? What books do you recommend? Do you have a go-to poet/writer?
ES:Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindberg is stunning– poignant and beautifully crafted. Wow. I love creepy poems so I really enjoyed A Larger Country by Tomás Q. Morín. Everyone and their mother, grandmother, and cat have been talking about Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral, and I will be no different. It’s undoubtedly one of the best books of poetry I’ve ever read. Larry Levis is one of my favorite poets. I can read his poems over and over. They are so good they make my heart hurt. I’ve been into Emily Dickinson ever since I was an awkward and solitary teenager and she still makes me feel “as if the top of my head were taken off.”
JS: What’s next for you? Any projects/books/plans for world domination?
ES: I would like to get my poetry manuscript published soon. I feel like it’s finished now and would like to see it in the world. Recently, I also started writing a memoir and then realized that I actually need to write a novel instead. I hope to one day have time to complete it. The ideas are bubbling inside me, but freelancing sucks up all of my time. I’ve also been approached to come up with some ideas for other kinds of media. I’m eager to tell the whole world more about it but I think it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen with all that. I’m very excited about the possibilities on the horizon. I feel like I’m on the cusp of something.
Erika L. Sánchez is a poet and freelance writer living in Chicago. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois at Chicago, was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to Madrid, Spain, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. She is currently the sex and love advice columnist for Cosmopolitan for Latinasand a contributor for The Huffington Post, NBC Latino, and others. Her poetry has appeared in Pleiades, Drunken Boat, Witness, Anti-, Hunger Mountain, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Copper Nickel, and others. She has written book reviews for Kirkus Reviews and her nonfiction has been published in Jezebel, AlterNet, and Ms. Magazine. http://erikalsanchez.com/
M. Ayodele Heath is a graduate of the MFA program at New England College. Heath’s honors include a 2009 Dorothy Rosenberg Prize and a McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech. He has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, Summer Poetry at Idyllwild, and the Caversham Centre for Writers & Artists in South Africa and received a grant in Literary Arts from the Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Crab Orchard Review, diode, Mississippi Review, Callaloo, The New York Quarterly, Chattahoochee Review, and Mythium, as well as featured in anthologies including Poetry Slam: the Competitive Art of Performance Poetry (2000), Java Monkey Speaks Anthology I (2004), and My South: a People, a Place, a World All Its Own (2005). His book of poems, “Otherness” was published in 2011 by Brick Road Poetry Press.
His poem, “The Stuttering House Negro Diviner Speaks: Heath Plantation, 1863” appears in RHINO 2011 and you can hear him perform it here. Associate Editor Jacob Saenz interviewed M. Ayodele Heath in late April, 2011.
JS: First, congratulations on receiving an Editor’s Prize in RHINO 2011! It is truly an honor to publish and award such a great poem. Thank you for submitting it to us, which leads me to ask: what prompted you to submit to RHINO? How did you hear about us?
AH: First, let me say, thank you for believing in the poem, and thank you for the opportunity to showcase it.
I first heard about RHINO in Best American Poetry 2003, when Yusef Komunyakaa selected Susan Dickman’s poem, “Skin,” from RHINO 2002. I’ve been knocking on RHINO’s door ever since!
JS: I notice on your website (www.ayospeaks.com) you are listed as a performance poet w/numerous awards and honors to your name. As someone who appreciates performance/slam poetry, I am curious as to how you became involved w/slam poetry. Who are some of your influences?
AH: My first experience with a poetry slam was what I would call an eye-opening lesson in the human condition. In 1995 at a bar in Atlanta’s Buckhead now-defunct bar district, I advanced to the final round with another poet, who, before reading her final poem said to the audience, “I’m not sure what to read, so I’ll let you decide. I’m gonna read a poem about my pets. Do you wanna hear about my puppies? Or my p*ssy?” The audience went bananas, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how that story ends. But that poet taught me something very valuable about rule number one of public speaking: Know your audience.
My next significant experience with slam wouldn’t be for another 4 years at the 1999 Southeastern Regional Poetry Slam in Knoxville, TN. About 40 or so poets from around the Southeast competed in this 3-day competition and I found myself, again, in 2nd place going into the final round of the competition. This time, the opponent was Knoxville’s Daniel Roop. But this time, something very different happened. Daniel was ahead of me by about 2 full points, which is basically insurmountable in the final round of a slam competition. He took the microphone and proceeded to do a 5-minute long poem, purposefully taking about a 4- or 5-point time penalty. In other words, he threw the competition. Three days of competing and this stranger sabotaged himself so that I could win! I was speechless. In all my years growing up playing competitive sports, I’d never seen such selflessness. That gesture—that act—completely changed how I viewed the world of slam. It shifted my paradigm: I went from viewing performance as an act of receiving to an act of giving. And it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
My influences are endless. Here’s a short list: Yusef Komunyakaa, Pablo Neruda, Jean Michel Basquiat, Patricia Smith, Ai, Allen Ginsberg, Ingrid de Kok, Lucille Clifton, Jean Paul Sartre, Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Baudelaire, Gil Scott Heron, Charles Simic, Fela Kuti, Galway Kinnell, Q-Tip, Andre 3000, William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, Lynn Nottage, William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes.
JS: How important is the oral versus the written in your poetry?
AH: To me, poetry, like theater or like music, is first and foremost a performance art. I start with the premise that the “poem” is a spiritual thing and that what appears in print is only a representation of that spiritual thing; the oral performance is another representation. Of the two, I see the oral poem as closer to the essence of what that spiritual thing is than the written poem.
That being said, I believe the oral poem and the written poem to be two different experiences with the oral as slightly more important because it is closer to the essence of the poem. I recognize that there are things which can be done on the page which are difficult to approximate in performance and that there are things which can be done in performance which are difficult to translate on the page. To try to make the oral and the written the same experience is to fail at both.
So, my job as a “performance” poet is to be as true to the written and the oral independently of each other – like a photograph of an object versus a video of an object. Each operates according to its own rules, its own physics, but each reaches toward its most accurate representation of that spiritual thing; each strives for its own fidelity.
When I think of my poetic lineage, I think of myself belonging to the ancient tradition of poets which predates a literate public – when the masses experienced poetry via the human voice: the epic poetry tradition of ancient Greece, the izibongo praise poetry of the Zulus, the griot tradition of West Africa. I generally believe that a poem is not a poem until it is read aloud (though there are exceptions.) I view the written word as technology that allows a different experience of the ‘spirit’ of a poem – technology no different than the internet or video. My objective is to use the technology most efficiently and most effectively, regardless of what it is.
JS: As a hip-hop fan, I love that your poem in RHINO, “The Stuttering House Negro Diviner Speaks: Heath Plantation, 1863,” contains many samples. In hearing the audio version, the samples clearly come through, especially with the great reading you give. I love how the poem starts out as a hymn and progresses into more of a hip-hop song. During the writing process, did you know you were going to use so many samples? Did one sample lead to another? Do the record companies know you sampled their work (ha!)?
AH:Thanks for recognizing the beginning as a hymn, because I’m not much of a singer!
I had no idea I was going to use so many samples. The poem was actually borne from a prompt at my first Cave Canem retreat last summer. Cave Canem is a week-long retreat at the University of Pittsburgh with African-American poets from all over the country. On the first night of the retreat, the 50-or-so attendees sit in a big circle and give a 2-3 minute introduction of ourselves, saying how we came into this space. There are generations of poets from age 18 to nearly age 80 expressing isolation and unity and in tears of joy and humility – it’s this incredibly moving experience.
After introductions, we were given a prompt that night to write a poem that night about why we were there. Alone in my room, I thought of the idea of the circle and what was being passed around that circle… and the wisdom entering that circle from the generations before… and the wisdom that would be carried from that circle for generations to come. And I sat down in front of my blank sheet of paper… and I thought of hip-hop cyphers… and drum circles… and records spinning… and atoms… and how all of this – this music, this pain, this struggle, this tradition of words – how this energy and data were being cycled around and around. And so I thought of a charge being passed around the circle. And my subconscious began humming a hymn from the old Baptist church of my childhood, “A Charge to Keep I Have.”
I had no idea where it was going, and no idea how many samples I would use… but my eyes got wet. I was moved by the earlier experience of that night… and I was frustrated because here I had this concept for a poem, but I had no idea how to get it on the paper. So, then I found myself crying tears of wonderment and frustration… and I stared at the screen… and I remembered where I was… in space and in time… and of all the supportive energy I’d felt in that circle… and I decided to just go with it. Cave Canem is such a safe space for a Black poet – where you don’t feel the need to footnote your experience and explain your cultural references, where you feel a freedom to just be your self.… and I just let the poem go.
It was like a kite I was chasing across a hill in a windstorm… The samples just led from one into another. And then the interruptions in my process gave me the idea to incorporate scratching… and then stuttering as a performance device. The first draft finished itself about 3 or 4 in the morning, and one of the first times since I was a child, I, Mr. Logic and Reason, had allowed sound to overtake sense – had allowed myself to write something that I didn’t even fully understand.
And no, the record companies don’t know that I sampled their work. But maybe they need to know. I could use the publicity!
JS: Who are you reading lately? Any writers that get you excited about the future of poetry?
AH: A lot of writers have me excited about the future of poetry. I’ve recently read Terrence Hayes’ ‘Lighthead, ’ Suheir Hammad’s ‘Breaking Poems,’ Douglas Kearney’s ‘The Black Automaton,’ Adrian Matejka’s ‘Mixology,’ and Christian Campbell’s ‘Running the Dusk.’ I’m looking forward to Rupert Fike’s upcoming debut, ‘Lotus Buffet.’
JS: What are you working on now? Any projects?
AH: Currently, I’m busy promoting my recently-released debut poetry collection, Otherness (Brick Road Poetry Press). And recently, I completed a video project called ‘Poets Make Black History,’ directed by Reggie Simpson, where I performed 28 poems by African-American poets for Black History month.
JS: Finally, do you have any advice for other poets submitting their work, whether to RHINO or elsewhere?
Featured Poets 6:45 – 7:30
500 Main St, Evanston, IL
Jacob Saenz is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago where he served as an editor for the Columbia Poetry Review. His work has appeared in Inkstains, Buffalo Carp, Paramanu Pentaquark and Poetry. He has been nominated for an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. He works at a library.
Kimberly Dixon is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow. Publications include The Drunken Boat, Torch, Versal, Reverie, and the anthology Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! from GirlChild Press. She is also a playwright and performer and has given readings and staged productions at Crossroads Theatre Company, Plowshares Theatre Company, Guild Complex and Strawdog Theatre Company. Her comic play “The Gizzard of Brownsville” was a finalist in the Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights. She recently became Managing Director of the Chicago literary non-profit, Guild Complex.